DISCLAIMER: The funding programs mentioned here were accurate at the time of publication. The programs mentioned here are likely to see changes over time.
The most recent Canadian government demographic report (from 2017) shows that one in five Canadians aged 15 and above – roughly 6.2 million individuals – have one or more disabilities that have direct impacts on mental and/or physical health. Despite the obstacles that disabilities may present, persons with disabilities can be educated and highly motivated, and able to perform tasks as, or even more, effectively as non-disabled applicants. Still, the study found that people aged 25 to 64 years old with disabilities are less likely to be employed (59%) than similar applicants that do not classify any disabilities (80%).
To help improve and increase opportunities for persons living with disabilities, Canadian employers can access government funding support to help accommodate and transform the job market to be more inclusive for all.
For many years now, the Government of Ontario has been identifying and endorsing ways to improve unemployment rates among people with disabilities. As such, the Ontario government continues to urge and support small and medium-sized businesses to hire workers that have identified disabilities to improve economic opportunities for all, reduce discrimination, and invest in enhanced workplace development initiatives.
Addressing Ontario’s High Unemployment Rates for Persons with Disabilities
There are many types of qualifying disabilities in Canada, including physical or mental conditions related to mobility, sight, hearing, learning, dexterity, pain, development, and psychological disorders. Over 15% of Ontario’s population identifies with one or more of these categories.
Hiring an individual with a disability may seem like a risk to some business owners, however, employers are forgetting to see the ‘able’ within the word disabled.
Since the Government of Ontario announced a multi-tier employment strategy to improve unemployment rates among the province’s disabled community in June 2017, there have been substantial changes.
Working together, we’ll arrive at the destination we set out for 10 years ago: an accessible Ontario by 2025.Brad Duguid, Minister of Economic Development, Employment and Infrastructure
The Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA) has improved accessibility standards in five key areas of daily living:
- Customer service;
- Information and communications;
- Transportation; and
- Public space design.
Under the AODA, the government is responsible for creating accessibility standards that organizations must follow. Implementing and enforcing these standards will help us work together to make Ontario more accessible and inclusive by 2025.
Government Funding for Hiring and Accommodating Workers with Disabilities
There are currently no programs available which provide specific hiring support for employers looking to bring on employees with disabilities. However, to make it easier for employers to support the government’s goals, Ontario offers funding for employers to help businesses reduce the cost of expanding their workforce while helping to increase opportunities for all. Currently, here are a few funding programs that may help offset the cost of hiring Ontarians, including those with disabilities:
- The Enabling Accessibility Fund: Eligible organizations can receive up to $100,000 for small construction, renovation or retrofit of existing spaces to improve accessibility, accessible information, and communication technologies;
- Mitacs Accelerate and Mitacs Elevate: Provide funding up to $30,000 for recent graduates and post-grad/fellowship students pursuing a PHD, etc.;
- Canada Summer Jobs (CSJ) program: Receive up to 50-100% of minimum wage in Youth Hiring Grants. The Canada Summer Jobs (CSJ) program offers support for employers providing supervised career-related work experience for youth employees, which may include youth workers with disabilities;
- Career-Ready with CTMA: Expanding Opportunities : Offers non-repayable contributions to subsidize the wages of new hires or the upskilling of existing employees with up to 50% of wages to a maximum of $5,000 per experiential work placement (EWP); and
- The NOHFC People & Talent Program is designed to attract, retain, and develop Northern Ontario’s workforce by creating and sustaining new and existing jobs with up to 50% of funding for an intern’s salary to a maximum of $35,000 per year.
Please note that the above programs are implemented for employers to apply for, not employees. However, if you are an individual with a disability who is looking for personal funding support, the Ontario Disability Support Program offers support where needed.
Businesses Can Access Funding for Training Initiatives
The Canada-Ontario Job Grant (COJG) also provides training grants to help employers invest in workforce development initiatives. This funding program is available for both training to assist employees with disabilities and to improve the employability of a business’ workforce.
Eligible businesses in Ontario can access this government funding to enhance their labour force by utilizing training and education for new/existing employees, including those with disabilities. These small business grants can be used to offset external training programs that lead to operational and productivity improvements.
Eligible employers can access up to 50-100% of up to $15,000 in employee training costs per trainee.
There are many other variations of the Canada Job Grant (CJG) program for the remaining provinces in Canada. To see a list of all programs, please visit the Canada Job Grant (CJG) program page.
How to Apply for Funding
To get started with COJG, businesses must submit an application that includes a business overview, detailed training plans, training impacts, and vendor quotes. Within the application, businesses must identify all trainees by title and how the training will impact their role within the company. Applications can be reviewed and approved in as little as 2-4 weeks.
Learn More About Government Funding for Your Business
Interested businesses may contact Mentor Works to learn more about any of these hiring grants and determine whether their business is eligible to apply for government funding to offset costs of hiring and/or training persons with disabilities.
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